Blood Donor Stories
Blood Donor Stories
West Des Moines, IA
“Volunteerism is in my DNA,” explained Joe D’Souza.
To anyone who knows him, that’s obvious! Joe is a familiar face to central Iowa LifeServe team members. Phlebotomists know him as a regular. A 24+ gallon blood donor, Joe generously gives whatever blood product is most needed at the time of his appointment. Double red cell, plasma, platelets – he’s given it all many, many times.
“The first step is the hardest step, but it’s one pin prick!” Joe explained. “Don’t think about that moment. Think about what’s happening down the line. Some guy is being saved, some lady is being saved. Some child is being saved. A newborn is getting your blood.”
A devastating experience during Joe’s service in the Indian army set him on his lifelong blood donation journey. During an inspection, a soldier was crushed by a 40 ton armored personnel carrier. Joe rushed to the scene with his fellow officers. He joined soldiers as they lined up to give blood in hopes of saving their comrade. The soldier didn’t survive his injuries, but Joe never forgot how vital blood was in those critical moments after the accident.
That’s why he urges new donors to take the plunge.
“I understand people are scared of many things. Unless you try it, you do not know,” Joe said. “You may be scared. I was scared when I gave my first time donation. Over time, you give two, three times, you’ll say ‘that was easy!’ It becomes part of the routine.”
Twenty four gallons and several awards later, Joe is a cherished LifeServer. When he’s not in a donor chair, he’s in a LifeServe vehicle delivering blood and supplies. In 2019 alone, Joe drove just over 100 hours!
Those accomplishments really stack up, and Joe loves every minute. “It’s something – really heartfelt emotions you’ll have.”
Des Moines, IA
B+ feels like a very accurate blood type for Kunta Nyameba.
“They have a lot of fun here,” he answered with a grin when asked about his favorite part of donating with LifeServe Blood Center. “Everyone’s laughing. Everyone’s fun. Makes it easy.”
Regular donation appointments pushed Kunta past the 11 gallon mark. Depending on how many pints each patient received, it’s entirely possible that more than 200 people have received Kunta’s blood during their critical time of need!
“I would encourage other people to donate because if you were in an accident today and you needed blood,” Kunta explained, “you’ll want someone to have given the pint or 4-5 pints for you. When you donate, you’re able to assist someone else.”
Double red cell is his donation of choice. Since only 9% of the population shares his B+ blood type, Kunta understands how vital it is that he gives back to ensure hospital patients have access to his lifesaving blood type when it’s needed.
“I feel that people need our assistance. Therefore it’s a good thing to do, so I do it! I love to volunteer. I love to give.”
It all started with a simple flyer posted in his high school where he grew up in Wisconsin. “I was walking down the hallway and they had signs to give blood,” Kunta said. “You had to take some kind of form home for your parents to sign. My mother signed it and I’ve been donating since then. My son will turn 16 and he’ll start donating. We’ll make it a family tradition.”
In just a few more donations, Kunta will reach his 100th donation. He’s taking it humbly and with a smile. “No big deal. I am very grateful for LifeServe.”
West Des Moines, IA
Kelly Weis is working toward her three gallon milestone, and she knows that will probably happen while she’s at work. A busy woman, she appreciates the ease of fitting a lifesaving blood donation appointment in to her work schedule.
“My blood type is very rare so I want to be able to help whoever I can.”
Rare indeed! Only 1% of the American population shares Kelly’s blood type. An AB- donor, she started donating in 2008 when the bloodmobile came to her office. When she switched jobs, she was pleased to find LifeServe also held blood drives with her new employer!
Business blood drives are just one of the options LifeServe makes available to communities. Whether it’s a blood drive in a conference room or a bloodmobile outside the building, LifeServe strives to make it easy for groups to get involved and host a blood drive on site. Some organizations even offer PTO as a reward to employees who roll up a sleeve!
“It’s very convenient,” Kelly said. “I know I need to be able to make it convenient to do it.”
That’s a common sentiment among LifeServers. Life is busy and time is limited. Fortunately, the entire process from start to finish only takes about an hour for a whole blood donation.
“It doesn’t take very long. I like to have a competition with somebody in the room to see who can be done first,” Kelly said with a grin. “It doesn’t take very long at all. It’s very easy.”
Sioux City, IA
Whether he’s seated in a donor chair at the Sioux City Donor Center or behind the anchor desk at KTIV News 4, Al Joens is all about giving back to Siouxland. Sure, you can find him reading stories about local blood donation opportunities on air, but he just as often takes his turn rolling up a sleeve. Al has donated 14 gallons of blood and counting!
“It just seems like such an easy and important thing to do,” Al explained.
It was a KTIV team member that started Al’s blood donation habit. Fitting, since KTIV is the proud sponsor of Sioux City’s annual Blood Donor Day, the biggest blood drive in Sioux City. “I remember the very first time I donated,” Al said. “It was in 1990 or ‘91. I was a reporter at Channel 4. One of our reporters was going to the blood bank to do a story. The photographer going with her was a blood donor himself and he recruited me to come along and start donating. I did!”
The donation itself was standard, but another donor giving blood that day left a lasting impression. “There was a man in the chair across from me,” Al recalled. “He was at 11 gallons. I remember thinking, ‘Man, that’s a lot of blood! I could never live long enough to get to 11 gallons!’ And here I am, more than that now. It’s just amazing once you get going how you just keep doing it and it’s just part of the routine.”
Al’s closing in on the 15 gallon mark – a substantial feat. He has given enough blood to single-handedly save the lives of more than 330 people right here in Siouxland. His advice to folks who want to donate but might be intimidated is simply to relax.
“A lot of people say ‘Oh, I don’t like needles.’ Well, nobody likes needles!” Al said. “It’s really not painful. It’s really not a big deal. It’s easy – it’s much easier than you think it is. I encourage people. It’s important to give that gift of life and make that donation because someday you or someone you love might need it. We need to make the donation so that it’s there.”
Twenty four gallon donor Tim Baird is a regular in the Sioux City Donor Center. His specialty? Liquid gold – platelets.
“I’ve always given. I’d give so so,” Tim explained. “It wasn’t a regular basis, and then 9/11 took place. My daughter said ‘Let’s go give blood.’ They took the blood. In the little pouch that’s next to it, before they could even put the tube on it, it had clotted. They said ‘You probably shouldn’t be giving whole blood. You should be giving platelets.’”
Like clockwork, Tim gives platelets about once a month and has done so for more than a decade. At first it was something good to do to give back. Then it became personal.
“My granddaughter was born – stillborn,” Tim said. “They worked on her for about nine minutes before she became stable. They had to give her blood products – a lot. And I saw what it did for her. When you have somebody that you know, it just helps you to continue to do it.”
Besides one of Sioux City’s regular platelet donors, Tim is known as the Santa Donor. Every December during his appointment, he comes in wearing a familiar red suit, handing out candy canes to LifeServe team members and fellow blood donors.
“I just go to different organizations. It’s just fun!” Tim said, his eyes as bright as those of St. Nick himself. “They take pictures and show their children. They have people that are giving whole blood and they want a picture, and they’ll come over and stand next to me while I’m still giving.”
Saving lives while making sure every gets an extra festive dose of that Christmas cheer.
As an O- blood donor, Stephen Hartwell always knew his donations were vital to the blood supply. He started donating after his time in the Army and continued to make his lifesaving gifts through the years, always enjoying his experience in the donor chair and especially the cookies afterward.
In 2017, blood donation turned the tables on Stephen and saved his life. A routine pre-donation screening at LifeServe’s Mason City Donor Center revealed frequent and significant skipped heartbeats. The screener urged Stephen to see a doctor as soon as possible.
He followed that advice and was referred to the hospital for testing, which revealed a heart issue requiring the implantation of a pacemaker. “My cardiologist said without that rapid intervention and procedure,” Stephen explained, “I wouldn’t have been around to see my oldest grandson graduate from high school that May.”
Today Stephen is thankful for the lives he’s saved and that his life was saved through blood donation. “I’ve always been on the donor side of the equation, but the staff at LifeServe Blood Center can add me to the count of lives saved through the services they provide,” Stephen said. “I went to Colorado to be there for my grandson’s graduation, I had a beautiful summer with my family, and I was especially proud in October when I returned to the Mason City LifeServe Donor Center and was able to make another double-red donation. Life is good!”
It’s the good feeling you get post-donation that LifeServe blood donor and volunteer Cindy credits with keeping her dedication to the blood donation cause going strong. “It was always nice knowing that I was helping someone,” she said of her life-saving habit.
Cindy never imagined that “someone” would be her mom. Cindy’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and received blood transfusions that always boosted her energy during her hospitalizations. “You could see the color return in her skin,” Cindy explained. “She would have an appetite, and most importantly it gave us another day with her.”
Sadly, Cindy’s mother lost her battle with cancer. As she mourned, Cindy knew there was a big way she could continue to celebrate her mother’s life. “I was so grateful, knowing the blood supply was available when she needed it most,” Cindy said. “I donate for those that are in need, and of course, I donate in memory of my mother.”
Blood donation runs through the veins of KCAU 9 News Anchor Tim Seaman’s family. It was his father, a multi-gallon donor, who motivated Tim to start saving lives. “I always had known how important it was and heard him talk about it often,” Tim said. Now he keeps a regular double red cell donation appointment.
Besides saving lives, Tim’s favorite part of donating blood is the LifeServe team. “The staff is so professional,” he said. “They really know their jobs and go out of their way to make it a good experience for you. It’s not just, ‘Hey, we’re glad you’re here because we need you.’ It’s ‘Hey, we haven’t seen you in a while! Glad to see you!'”
34 Gallon Donor
Dan began his blood donation career like many other donors, giving whole blood once or twice a year. But the more he donated and learned about the importance of giving blood, the more he felt the need to help. “Donating blood is easy for me to do and I know that there are so many people who I can help, it just seems like the right thing to do,” says Dan.
Dan is now an apheresis platelet donor and donates every month. In fact, it was through his frequent blood donations that he met his wife! Their motto has become “save lives and make a love connection!”
17 Gallon Donor
Personal experience with a life and death situation motivated Steve Thomas to become not just a blood donor himself, but a blood drive advocate.
Steve’s wife Lori had an emergency during the birth of their third child. She received over ten units of blood. “At the time I was so grateful for the fact that her life was virtually saved that I became dedicated to giving blood for the rest of my life,” Steve said. “I wanted to pay it back.”
Now his company, RJ Thomas Manufacturing, hosts blood drives for employees every 56 days, where he adds on to his own donation record. “It’s a great cause and I enjoy it! Physically, mentally, emotionally: it just makes me feel better.”
Des Moines, IA
127 Gallon Donor
What else can you do that allows you to give life to another person? This simple question is what motivates Paul Menzel to be an aphaeresis platelet donor. “I believe in the importance of giving blood and helping others,” says Paul.
As a committed donor, Paul donates platelets every two weeks. Paul knows that his selfless gift helps someone in his community. Paul’s commitment to blood donation has led him to become the top gallon milestone donor in LifeServe Blood Center’s collection area where he personally helps hundreds of hospital patients each and every year.
87 Gallon Donor
Blood donors share a common commitment, the desire to help someone in need. Howard’s commitment to saving lives is evident by the number of gallons of blood he has donated throughout his lifetime. His donations provide the gift of life to someone he will probably never meet. “You just never know if you’ll be the one to need blood at some point in time. I’ve been fortunate to be healthy and able to donate and I just believe it is the right thing to do to help others.”
54 Gallon Donor
Lifetime donors, like Kathy Denny, share a strong belief in community service, personal responsibility and the importance of helping others. Kathy’s commitment to blood donation began as an act of honor and memory of her late brother who died three short months after being diagnosed with leukemia as a teenager. Kathy saw the need and importance of donated blood during her brother’s illness and has continued her lifelong habit of giving blood by donating whole blood and/or platelets on a regular basis.